Why Does Water Make a Red Ring in the Toilet Bowl?

There’s nothing quite so off-putting as a dirty-looking toilet bowl. Neither is there anything quite so strange as one with a red ring. If your toilet bowl has developed some suspicious stains, you’re no doubt worried about what it is and exactly how much it’ll cost to get rid of it. The good news? That red ring is probably caused by nothing more than Serratia marcescens, a type of bacterial organism that is usually harmless and incredibly easy to remove with the right technique. Here’s exactly what you need to know about that red ring in the toilet bowl…and how to get rid of it.

Why Does Water Make a Red Ring in the Toilet Bowl?

If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to make even the most luxurious bathroom look cheap and nasty, it’s a stained toilet bowl. If those stains are pinkish or red in color, it generally means one of two things: either some iron from well water or old pipes is getting into the system, or, more commonly, you’ve got an unwelcome house guest in the form of Serratia marcescens paying a visit.

Iron Deposits

In some cases, the discoloration in the toilet bowl is the result of tiny amounts of iron and other minerals collecting in the piping system before being deposited in the toilet. These kinds of stains vary from orange to red, and are usually found just above the waterline.

Serratia Marcescens

Serratia marcescens may sound like something incredibly complicated and incredibly scary but it’s actually very common, quite mundane, and rarely anything to get in a tizz about. It’s nothing less and nothing more than a natural bacteria found in food, soil, and animal waste. As toiletseek.com notes, Serratia marcescens loves a damp environment, positively thriving off fats, dust, moisture, and anything that contains large quantities of phosphorus, including human waste, gel, soaps, shampoos, and certain food products. As most of those phosphorus-laden items (although hopefully not the food products) can be found in the toilet or bathroom, it’s only natural for Serratia marcescens to be found most prominently in those rooms.

Once it enters a house, it can quickly multiply and spread, providing there’s sufficient moisture to survive. When it’s found in the bathroom, it can often infect tile grout and shower corners. What it loves more than anything, however, is toilet bowls. As Hunker notes, toilet bowls, by their nature, provide the ideal environment for Serratia marcescens. Not only is there human fecal material to feed on, but there’s more than enough moisture to thrive. If the toilet bowl isn’t cleaned with a chlorine-containing solution regularly, so much the better.

Is it Dangerous?

If the red ring in your toilet bowl is caused by a build-up of mineral deposits, then you don’t need to worry too much. It may be unsightly, but there’s nothing intrinsically dangerous about it. If it’s caused by Serratia marcescens, there’s no major cause for concern in most cases. Providing you’re healthy, any skin contact with the bacteria shouldn’t cause any issues. Where problems can sometimes arise, however, is when the bacteria enters the body through the eyes or open wounds. If this happens, it can sometimes lead to urinary tract or bladder infections, depending on the overall health of the individual. To be on the safe side, it’s always best to treat the bacteria as soon as you become aware of it.

How to Get Rid of Red Rings in the Toilet Bowl

While Serratia marcescens is usually harmless to healthy individuals, it can sometimes be harmful to those with compromised immune systems. Unfortunately, it’s hard to eliminate completely once it’s established; however, there’s plenty of things you can do to control its growth and stop it from becoming a hazard. The same applies to red rings caused by iron deposits. If you’re ready to get that red ring out of your bathroom and out of your life, here’s what you need to know.

Removing Red Rings Caused by Mineral Deposits

Toilet Haven has some great advice on how to tackle red rings caused by iron deposits. Here’s what to do:

  • Step 1 – Turn off the water shut-off valve and flush the toilet until no water remains in the bowl.
  • Step 2 – Fill the bowl with white vinegar until it reaches just below the overflow tank. Leave it overnight.
  • Step 3 – Flush the vinegar, spray the bowl with disinfectant and leave for 15 minutes.
  • Step 4 – Don a pair of gloves before scrubbing the bowl with a brush.
  • Step 5 – Turn the water supply back on and flush the toilet a few times to remove any last traces of residue.

Tip: If any red stains remain after the initial treatment, try creating a thick paste from lemon juice or vinegar and borax. Spread the paste on the stains and leave overnight. The next morning, use a soft brush to scrub away the stains. Flush the toilet to finish.

Removing Red Rings Caused by Serratia Marcescens

When it comes to removing red rings caused by Serratia marcescens, you’ve got a few removal methods at your disposal.

For Easy Stains

If the stains are relatively new, try this quick and easy removal method.

  • Step 1 – Pour a chlorine-containing solution in the bowl and stir it around with a brush.
  • Step 2 – Allow the solution to sit for a few minutes. Flush to finish.

For Stubborn Stains

If you’re dealing with a toilet bowl that’s more red than it is white, it’s time to get serious with this removal method for stubborn stains.

  • Step 1 – Turn off the water shut-off valve and flush the toilet until no water remains in the bowl.
  • Step 2 – Fill the bowl with white vinegar. Sprinkle baking soda over the vinegar. If it starts to foam, don’t panic – this is what’s meant to happen.
  • Step 3 -Scrub the solution into the toilet bowl gently with a brush. Leave for half an hour
  • Step 4 – Once the allotted time has passed, scrub the bowl again to remove any remaining red stains
  • Step 5 – Flush the toilet bowl a few times to remove any residue.
  • Step 6 – Add some bleach to the toilet bowl and allow to sit for half an hour. Flush. If any red stains remain, repeat the process.

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